Alex P. Berg
Author Interview Questions
1: Hi, and thanks for joining today. In your own words tell us about yourself, not you the author, but just you!
A: I’m Alex P. Berg, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction author extraordinaire. I have a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering (yes, really!), but I gave all that up for a shot at literary stardom. I usually listen to heavy metal while I write, mostly niche subgenres like progressive metal, symphonic metal, and melodic death metal (it’s a thing). In what little free time I have, I deadlift, watch TV that I’d probably be better off skipping, and sink far too many hours into my Xbox. I also enjoy long walks on the beach…with my wife, and dog. Sorry ladies (and other dogs).
2: Why did you decide to become an author and what’s the best part? Yeah, it’s a double-whammy of a question. So unexpected!
A: After graduate school, where I got that Ph.D. I referred to, I worked for a number of years at research facilities around the country, mostly manipulating multi-million dollar microscopes to look at the molecular and atomic structure of various materials, and as cool as that sounds, after a few years of it I realized it really wasn’t for me. So I quit to be a writer! And the best part is really threefold: I’m my own boss, I work on something I love, and I get to spend much more time with my family.
3: So, tell us about your work. Sell us on it! Why should we read it and why it will capture us?
A: Envision the following: A gritty, urban metropolis transitioning into the industrial age, a mid-nineteenth century New York or London analogue. Crime runs rampant. Drug lords rule the slums, which spread like diseases through the avenues. Only the police stand against the surging tide. Against this backdrop enter our protagonists: Jake Daggers, a jaded, grizzled homicide cop in his early thirties, and his beautiful, brilliant new psychic partner, the half-elf Shay Steele.
Oh…did I fail to mention this is a fantasy series? Magic and murder stand side by side, and you usually don’t find one without the other. This is the world of Daggers & Steele. Get the first one today for free!
4: Why did you choose the genre you write in over others to start your publishing career? Did others appeal to you more and you chose this? Was there a bit of choice weighing or was it rather simple?
A: Well, to be honest, I set out thinking I was writing urban fantasy, when actually it turns out I write mystery novels with urban fantasy flair. That’s not surprising given that my biggest influence was Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. series, which is more or less the same thing. But I’ve also written science fiction mystery, which in many cases is harder to pull off successfully, but Isaac Asimov did it, so gosh darn it, I knew I could, too!
But really, it was an easy decision. I’ve read SFF my whole life, and the engineer in me likes the systematic nature of mysteries. Heck, scientific research in many ways is like trying to solve a mystery. It came naturally to me.
5: So far, what would you say has been the hardest part of being an author?
A: There are two hard parts. The first is finding your audience, and I don’t mean figuring out what you like to write. I mean literally finding people who are going to buy your books. Visibility is the single hardest part of being an author, indie or traditionally published. And once you find them, you have to hold on to them, which is a whole other battle.
The other difficult part of being an author is the financial instability. You never know how much you’ll make from month to month, current success isn’t a prediction of future sales, and you’re always worried the bottom is going to fall out of things. So it’s stressful at times.
6: Now for the ever-so-shocking follow-up question. What’s the best/easiest part, if there is one?
A: I already covered this, but being your own boss, working on things you love, and spending time with the people you love—that’s what it’s all about.
7: Tell us about what your experiences in the author life have been like. I don’t mean the writing aspects. I mean the daily human life. Tell us what it’s like to live the day life you do and be an author at the same time. What’s it like when people in your life and, the people you come across, find out you’re an author?
A: Well, I’m lucky enough to be a full time author (two and a half years running, woooooooo!!!), so I don’t have to balance my time between a day job and writing. I spend all my time writing, editing, and on my business—well, most of my time. Damn Facebook and phone games are a constant distraction. But I try to spend about 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week working on writing and related work, so more or less what I’d put into a regular job.
People are surprised to hear I’m an author, mostly because it’s my full time job. They’re impressed I’m able to make enough from it to get by, and then I explain the economics of independent publishing and they get it.
8: Writing is a hard craft and a harder career. What are the things that keep you going, both in improving the craft and enduring the downs/lows of the career?
A: Yeah, keeping yourself motivated is the hardest part, especially when sales ebb. One of the best traits you can have as an author is a staunch, unfounded sense of optimism, because otherwise you will surely get depressed and give up at some point or another. I mean, the odds against success are overwhelming, if we’re being honest—which isn’t to say you can’t be successful. I have! But I find that you have to keep yourself refreshed and interested in your profession. Part of that is taking time to recharge your batteries between projects. Indulge yourself a little, whether that means taking a weekend trip, playing some video games, or reading a good book you’ve been putting off. Sometimes, when you’re your own boss, you can drive yourself too hard, and in a creative profession, that can be counterproductive.
9: What do you love about the genre you write and what others appeal to you?
A: As I said, I write mystery, fantasy, and science fiction, mostly because I like the whimsy of SFF and the intellectual aspect of mysteries. But I read in all genres and I like to mix and match, which is possible because when we use the term genre, we mean starkly different things. Science fiction and fantasy are setting-based genres. Romance, thrillers, and horror are about the emotions elicited in the reader, and mystery is simply a plot device. So it’s entirely possible to write a sci-fi mystery thriller, for example, and I have. But whatever you write, be sure to read extensively in that genre, otherwise you’ll break all kinds of conventions that you don’t even know about and fall flat on your face—or be the next J. K. Rowling, lol…
10: What can we expect from you next? Tell us about the plans for your series and body of work.
A: I’m going to finish my Daggers & Steele series, which I suspect will go to ten novels, and then I have some more ideas that I haven’t made public yet, but I’ll probably be working on a new series that’s more conventional ‘urban fantasy’ while still having the flair of mystery and humor I’m known for.
11: The writing and publishing world has changed a lot. Self-publishing, small to medium presses popping up, and things like becoming a hybrid between indie pubbing and traditional. What are your thoughts on that? Any predictions on what the future might hold? What would you like to see, both as an author yourself, and, as a consumer/reader?
A: I’m an indie, and I’ve made a living at it, so I’m pretty gung ho on it. That said, it’s not easy to get noticed (see the topic of visibility above), and it keeps getting harder. There are millions and millions of ebooks available on Amazon, and thousands more get added every day. How does yours stand out? It’s not an easy question to answer…
As for the future? Well, eventually I think AI will become complex enough to write books on its own—good ones. Will it take 50 years? 100? 20? I don’t know, but better to get your money while the gettings good. But in all seriousness, as an amateur futurist, I think computers will take almost all our jobs, and them taking the creative work is the least of our problems. Are you familiar with the Luddites? They went about destroying technology in the early 1800s because it was taking their jobs. We could see widespread chaos of a similar nature in the next few decades as workers of all kinds are displaced.
Man, this got dark fast. On to the next question!
12: The always done and asked question. Who are your favorite authors? What are you favorite books? What are you reading now? Tell us. Tell us!
A: My favorite author is Glen Cook, and I love his Garret P.I. series (a pseudo urban fantasy private eye series) and his Black Company books (a gritty, military epic fantasy series focused on the soldiers outside of battle) almost equally. In general, I grew up on mostly sci-fi, reading tons of Heinlein and Asimov, until getting into the Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind monstrosities in my late teens. Now I bounce around genres much more.
Currently I’m reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, it’s the most comprehensive novel on the colonization of Mars I’ve ever read, possibly the best one ever written. It’s the hardest of hard sci-fi at times. At others, Robinson goes on thirty page discourses of Islam and Marxism, told through the view of some thoroughly unsavory characters and without any obvious goals for the protagonists. So yeah…mixed feelings.
13: I’ve got to know…what’s your favorite word to use. Every author has one. What’s the word you catch yourself using a lot? We’ve all got those as well. What’s your favorite word just to say? Something where you like the way it sounds. What’s your favorite curse worse, if you’ve got one and or use them?
A: Just. I’ve gotten better about it over time, but I still have to carefully look for that one as I edit. Honestly, I have a Word document entitled ‘Words to Kill’ that I used as a template when I first got started. I still refer to it on occasion.
‘Truth be told’ was one I struggled with as I got started, but stuff slips through the cracks even now, after writing a dozen novels. I put something like fifteen instances of ‘narrowed an eye’ in my latest novel for some reason, which thankfully my editor noted before I published it.
14: You’ve just had a recent release a month back. The 7th book in your bestselling series. Tell us about it!
A: Book seven in my Daggers and Steele series, Steele of the Night. It’s a cross between an 80’s hair metal concert and the movie, The Hangover, with detectives Daggers and Steele trying to solve a murder of a famed rock singer with precious little to go on. The man’s murder hints at supernatural origins, but the case gets odder with each step forward. Some of my novels are more serious, but this one is intended to be a riot from start to finish. Check it out!
15: Lastly, where can we find you? Facebook? Twitter? Website? Links to your material. Go on, don’t be shy. Share!
A: The best place to find out about me is on my website, www.alexpberg.com, but you can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. And if you haven’t read the first book in my Daggers & Steele series, Red Hot Steele, what are you waiting for? It’s free! Buy it today!